Tech start-up of the week: Scaboodle

6 Sep 2014

Pictured: Nicki Preston, Michael Barr, Riaz Ahmed (Nokia) and Ronan Corr

Our tech start-up of the week is Scaboodle, a Belfast-based creator of a mobile app that helps event organisers build and engage communities through their events.

Individuals use Scaboodle to make it easy to organise, co-ordinate and engage a group of friends.

“Scaboodle also scales to meet the needs of experiential marketing companies such as Heineken running music festivals or membership-centric organisations running sporting competitions,” said co-founder Michael Barr.

Future Human

“We make it easy to co-ordinate people and foster an engaged community through the Scaboodle app, social media, email and text messaging.”

The market

Barr said Scaboodle’s niche is dealing with brands who are seeking to create or build communities around customer-led events and who want to deepen and enhance their relationship with those attending.

“In fact, we are currently completing a project for Microsoft that will help them understand and track who attends their events.

“The opportunity lies in the engagement of this customer base. Events are a way for brands to connect directly with the consumer. With organic reach decreasing on Facebook, brands are looking for opportunities to engage event attendees and help maximise the impact.

“Scaboodle helps brands achieve that by engaging exclusively with consumers who attend these events and are most connected with the event. Brands can use Scaboodle to encourage and incentivise consumers to engage more with the brand and also extend audience reach through social media integration within the system.”

Barr explained that Scaboodle also comes equipped with services that help manage the event more effectively, whether that is sending invitations, notifications of changes, check-in functionalities, post-event data, as well as a database that can be easily notified of your next event.

“It has been a really exciting last few weeks for Scaboodle. We have secured a number of really high-profile clients, including several of the world’s most recognisable brands. These early stage clients are key to our success.”

The founders

Barr co-founded and served as CTO of Jampot – a Belfast-based start-up specialising in multiplatform mobile app creation. Prior to this, he started and ran several web and IT companies, along with lecturing in IT at local universities and colleges.

“Successful tech companies are all about the team. As such, we have been really careful in building an awesome team of founders with the combination of skills and experience in this sector. We have also ensured that those joining the team share and buy into our global vision.”

The founding team is all highly experienced within the mobile, cloud, marketing, community and events space.

“Many of us have been involved in developing enterprise solutions for community and event-based organisations and complimented that with guys like myself who have built large-scale, consumer-focused, multi-device mobile platforms.  

“That experience and knowledge has been fantastic in developing partnerships with global technology and marketing companies. I am a big believer in Steve Jobs’ famous quote – ‘A small team of A-plus players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players’. With the small team we have, we have been able to move rapidly and create something special.”

Barr said that while the team is largely comprised of engineers, landing the recent deals means the company can scale up sales and marketing in the new year.

“At Scaboodle we place a huge emphasis on team. We have assembled a fantastic bunch of dedicated, driven and talented engineers who all see the big picture and who think globally.”

The technology

Scaboodle embraces cloud and mobile to focus on the real-time experience of people attending events.

“We provide a free native mobile app to all event attendees, which allows them to interact directly with the event organiser, other people going to the same event, and of course their own social circle via our in-app sharing to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and others.  

“Event organisers can interact in real time with attendees – pushing relevant content directly to their device while at the event – for example, exclusive offers or schedule changes.

“The really cool bit is that the people attending the event can all interact with each other and the event organiser, live at the venue – this could anything from a simple group chat right up to interactive polls to choose the next song at a festival!

“Once the event is over, the Scaboodle journey is just beginning. Organisers can draw down rich data from the interactions, which took place around their event, helping to plan future events and drive their marketing campaigns. Attendees can use Scaboodle to find similar events, like-minded people, or even become event organisers themselves!

“We want Scaboodle to be the No 1 choice for events run by experiential marketers.”

Home is where the heart is

While start-ups dream of moving to San Francisco, New York or London, Barr is wise to make use of Belfast’s legacy in the world of mobile technology to source talent.

“Many technology start-ups I speak to are setting up in San Francisco, New York or London. The big problem I keep hearing about is about getting top engineers.

“Thankfully for us, being based out of Belfast and well connected locally, we are very lucky to be in a position to have access to top engineering graduates and experienced personnel. The biggest challenge for us is scaling a company based out of Ireland in terms of sales, marketing and business development. We have spent a lot of time in San Francisco, New York and London building relationships with partners and potential clients.

“You then have the issues associated with running a team remotely, but again, this has been limited as we have a great team.

“Similarly on the funding front, in order to secure ‘smart money’ we need to travel and spend time developing relationships in a new country/city. The challenge we face is balancing the time between growing the business or securing investment to accelerate growth.”

A global focus, a global magnet

The presence of a thriving start-up scene allied with a buzzing multinational scene has made Ireland the go-to place for start-ups.

“It’s definitely an exciting time to be a globally focused start-up in Ireland with some fantastic companies, such as Trustev leading the way. Thanks to so many global tech companies now basing themselves out of Dublin we can now tap into those networks, as well as access experienced top executives who are keen to help local firms.

“The guys in Microsoft have played a massive role in helping us grow. I have and continue to recommend anyone setting up a tech company in Ireland to speak to Microsoft.”

Barr also praised Enterprise Ireland and Invest NI, that continues to promote tech companies and provide crucial introductions.

“There is a great support network available to you if you can tap into it whether locally or through the Irish diaspora in places like New York or San Francisco. I would recommend to others to do so via Microsoft Ireland and finding the right people to talk to in Enterprise Ireland or Invest NI.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years